Subject: AP: East Timor extends voter registration over fears of violence

East Timor extends voter registration over fears of violence

DILI, East Timor (AP): Street violence and worries about renegade soldiers are disrupting preparations for next month's elections in East Timor - polls seen as crucial to the tiny nation's future - an official said Wednesday.

The voter registration deadline for the polls has been extended to Wednesday next week from Friday this week, said Faustino Cardoso Gomes, president of the National Electoral Commission.

Gomes said security concerns in parts of the capital, Dili, and in the south were a reason for the extension, along with higher-than-expected voter registration in some areas.

"There has been a problem in terms of security in some places," Gomes said in explaining the extension.

UN electoral officials recently pulled out of the southern town of Same because Australian troops there are hunting a band of rebel soldiers led by renegade Maj. Alfredo Reinado Reinado was a leader in last year's factional fighting among the military and police, which spilled into Dili's streets inviolence that killed at least 37 people and sent about 155,000 fleeing to refugee camps.

International soldiers largely restored peace, but gang battles still often break out in Dili.

Election officials hope to ensure the April 9 presidential election and parliamentary elections later in the year are fair, so they do not trigger more violence in this fledgling democracy that endured a bloody separation from Indonesia in 1999. (**)

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